Composing memorable urban landscapes

PhotographyTips & Tricks

Top Tips to create the perfect landscape photograph by Rajneesh Panwar

When we talk about urban landscapes, we usually think about buildings and high rises. While they do form a part of the urban landscape, they are not the only examples. For me, it is also about capturing people in their daily life in an urban environment. Here are some of my top tips that will help you create a truly memorable urban landscape photograph.

1. Learn to see light and the shadows it creates

Light can help you to bring out fine details, textures and saturation of the colours. When we are talking about the light, we have to keep an eye on the shadows it creates. Shadows play an important role in giving dimensions to the shapes and thus creating a depth in an image.

Rajneesh Panwar Urban landscape 1B

2. Go beyond cliché

Today, when almost everybody moving around with a mobile phone  is a photographer, it is important that one goes beyond shooting cliché images and virtually get noticed.
For this I almost always junk the first image that gets created in my mind and make use of angles, vantage points, lights and shadows, zoom ins and zoom outs, creative use of focal lengths and sometimes all applied in one image. This helps me think out of box and get creative images.
Rajneesh Panwar urband landscape 2a

Rajneesh Panwar urban landscape -2b

3. Think like an architect

Shooting architecture is not just about clicking them, but it is all about photographing their soul. Think like an architect, what he felt while designing the architecture, take your time and analyze carefully, feel the shape, a curve, lines, details, design and most importantly light.
Lines, curves and shapes are supposed to be the most effective part of a composition as they provide a structure to your photograph.
Lines can be vertical lines (shows sense for strength), horizontal lines (sense of calmness), diagonal line (sense of movement), leading lines (leads viewer’s eyes to the subject).
Shape is just a 2D element in an image but with the help of different tonal range in the shape, it can create the sense of 3rd Dimension.Rajneesh Panwar_LotusRajneesh Panwar

4. Find a high vantage point

It is very essential to find a high vantage point to get new perspective of the cityscape. It doesn’t matter if u climb up a few stairs or go on top of the building, all that matters is the composition and interesting view of the city. You can shoot such scenes with wide angle or longer focal length to get the best results out of it.

Rajneesh Panwar urban landscape 4a

Rajneesh Panwar urban landscape 4b

5. Go Close and make use of focal length

Going close and low gives an interesting worm’s eye view. You can use wide angle and fish eye lens to create exciting new angles and filling the foreground with interesting subject or elements. Be careful with the shallow depth of field and be sure of where you need to focus. Use a narrow aperture to get a good depth of field but don’t go beyond F16 as it will result in diffraction of the light and you may loose sharpness.
Personally I use camera’s LCD screen (live view mode) to frame my shots while going really low.

Rajneesh Panwar 5a

6. Use Long Exposure

Long exposures will show you something which our eyes cannot see and it will help you to create surreal images. You can create long exposures with the help of ND Filters. Personally, I use 10 to 16 Stop ND Filter (depending upon the light) which makes the shutter speed very slow. Best ND Filters available in the market are Lee Big Stopper, B+W, Formatt-Hitech. A good and sturdy tripod (carbon fibre is highly recommended) is essential for taking long exposure shots.

Rajneesh Panwar photography

7. Get Details

While shooting the details, telephoto lenses play a vital role. Zoom in and go tight with the frame. For photographing the details, look for the areas of lights and shades, lines, shapes, patterns, colors and minimalism.

Rajneesh panwar urban landscape 7a

Rajneesh panwar photographaphy 7b

Rajneesh Panwar photography 7c

8. Get people into the frame

Human elements are  strong elements in compositions as they can create a strong visual interest in the frame. Our human eye has a habit of searching for humans in the frame as we are already surrounded by the humans in real life. So it helps the viewer to connect with the image and adds energy to an otherwise static scene.

Rajneesh Panwar photography 8a

Rajneesh panwar photography 8b

Rajneesh Panwar photography 8d

9. Post Processing

Post Processing is an integral part of photography workflow. And this fact changes the whole concept. As per Ansel Admas himself: “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” Sometimes light is not what we would like to have and this is where simple tools like dodging and burning help us shape the light and create necessary effect.

Personally, I use Lightroom to make some global changes and then switch over to Photoshop with some advanced techniques to create results based on my vision.


Before Post Processing

After post processing

After post processing

About Rajneesh Panwar


Rajneesh Panwar is a visionary Fine Art & Fashion Photographer who sees images with his mind’s eye. For him photography is an art where one captures a brief moment in time , which speaks volumes through a complex interplay between subject, light, color, texture and contrast.

Rajneesh is a panelist light master at light chasers conducting their specialized workshops and photo tours across India.

See more of his work at and connect with him here facebook  instagram

Photography, Tips & Tricks

Posted on 09-22-2016

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